7 Symptoms of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs


When having a dog, you need to be ready to face numerous health issues including intestinal blockage.

Dog’s that are known as  ”vacuum cleaners” meaning that they have a habit of eating whatever they find are most prone to this issue and their owners need to pay special attention, as they are the first to recognize the early symptoms of an intestinal blockage.

According to the vets’ statistics, the list and number of objects that were found in dogs’ digestive systems are quite impressive.

Furthermore, it is very surprising, being that what vets have found were coins, bones, sticks, parts of toys, socks, stones, buttons, underwear, balls, tampons, and marbles.

The greatest problem arises when dogs tend to gulp their treats.

7 Symptoms of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

These are some of the symptoms of intestinal blockages in dogs, as they can vary depending on the location of the blockage in the digestive tract:

  • Lethargy
  • Drooling
  • Lip-smacking
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain (praying position)
  • Difficulty defecating

This problem has to be treated well and carefully, due to the fact that a blockage can lead to fatal complications.

If you do not take the thing out, it can lead to perforation of the bowels and peritonitis.

On the other hand, if your dog is seen by the vet quickly, surgery may be avoided as the item can be removed via endoscopy.

What the vet will suggest highly depends on what the dog ate.

In certain cases, such as when the dog ate a soft item, you may be suggested to induce vomiting before a blockage occurs.

You will then need to watch your dog carefully.

If it vomits once and keeps on having normal bowel movements with no other symptoms, the reason may be an upset stomach which you can treat at home.

Also, if your dog is not pooping, it may be constipation, and this can also be treated at home.

You need to have in mind that constipation in dogs is not common.

The majority of dogs who appear to have constipation are actually suffering from diarrhea with tenesmus.

Tenesmus is the health issue when a dog has the urge to have a bout of diarrhea, but nothing comes out.

All in all, you need to know whether there is a combination of symptoms and if this is the case, then it is especially alarming.

Dog Intestinal Blockage Timeline

Symptoms of an intestinal blockage typically occur within 24 hours of swallowing something. Once an item lodges itself, the symptoms will occur.
Location of Blockage Symptoms Time to Show Up
Esophagus Licking lips, swallowing a lot, regurgitating right after being fed Shortly after swallowing something
Stomach Vomiting occurs within a few hours of eating. This type is usually caused by large, smooth items. A few hours
Small intestine Vomiting after eating, abdominal pain, distended abdomen, fever, shock Varies
Toward the end of the small intestine Vomiting usually takes place 7 – 8 hours after eating, diarrhea 7 – 8 hours after eating or later

A Rough Timeline of When Blockage Symptoms Show Up

Whatever your dog has swallowed, it takes about 10 to 24 hours for items to move through the gastrointestinal tract.

In case of an intestinal blockage, symptoms can be noticed within 24 hours after swallowing the problematic thing.

Of course, it has to be taken into consideration that the time needed for symptoms to be obvious will depend a lot on where the item lodges.

The earlier the item is lodged, the sooner symptoms will appear.

If the blockage happens in the esophagus, symptoms will appear quickly after swallowing the object.

You will be able to notice that dogs do the following:

  • Lick their lips
  • Swallow a lot
  • Vomit right after being fed

Another symptom can be dehydration, as dogs that have this problem are unable to eat and drink.

The blockage in the stomach can cause the prevention of food from making it through the intestinal tract, thus vomiting will usually occur.

Golf balls, marbles, and bones are the objects that typically create blockages in the stomach.

The blockage in the small intestine is frequently caused by the object that got stuck in the bends of the small intestine and being that the gas accumulates, it makes the intestine become distended.

This is a serious issue as the blood supply can be cut off and the tissues can die.

If this is the problem, your dog will begin vomiting right after eating and you will be able to notice some other symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended abdomen
  • Fever
  • Shock

It is very important to mention that this condition can even lead to death if left untreated.

In case the blockage is at the end of the small intestine, symptoms can be diarrhea and vomiting which occurs 7-8 hours after eating.

Symptoms Do Not Always Happen Immediately

The symptoms may not appear immediately.

This is due to the fact that the object is partially blocking the digestive system.

But this is what happens only at first.

There is a chance that a dog shows symptoms six days after swallowing something.

Actually, the foreign item moved around the dog’s stomach for a few days causing no issues, and then it went to the narrow small intestines and started creating problems.

Veterinarian Dr. Eric Discusses Bowel Obstructions in Dogs

My Dog Swallowed a Bone! What to Do?

Dogs like both eating and playing with a bone, and swallowing it is something quite common.

After only a moment of your carelessness, your dog is already eating a chicken wing.

You naturally try to chase him and take the wing, but he swallows it whole.

What can you do in this situation?

You are lucky, as your dog has eaten a cooked bone that is more likely to fall apart than raw bones.

So, raw bones are quite a danger to your pet.

We would like to mention three things owners can feed their dog with so as to help protect the dog’s stomach.

These things will wrap around the bone and allow it to move through the system smoothly:

  • 1/2 to 1 slice of high-fiber bread
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice

Once any of these is given to your dog, you can only wait and see whether it will help or not.

However, if your dog is uninterested in food, starts vomiting, has pain or tarry stools, or does not act normally, it is always better to be on the safe side and see the vet immediately.

What If My Dog Swallowed . . . .

“Food” Item Dangerous to Swallow? What to Do If Your Dog Swallows It
Cooked chicken, pork, or rib bones Yes. Cooked bones can crack and splinter, which can be harmful to your dog in the gastrointestinal tract. Feed your dog 1/2 to 1 slice of high fiber food and observe it for signs of injury or blockage.
A corn cob Can cause problems if your dog swallows it whole or large chunks. Watch carefully for signs of obstruction
Rawhide Can cause an obstruction if your dog swallows large pieces If your dog swallows a large chunk, observe it for signs of obstruction.
Tampons Yes. They can swell and cause an obstruction. You need to determine how much your dog ate, as you will need to give the vet that information. Watch your dog for warning signs.

How Worried You Should Be About Swallowed Bones? A Vet Explains

If You Go to the Vet: Diagnosis of a Gastrointestinal Foreign Body

Once taken to a vet, your dog will have a physical examination.

Vets will probably palpate the dog’s abdomen so as to find signs of pain and distention.

the foreign object can be felt during this step.

Also, they may perform X-rays so as to reveal the object ingested and its exact location.

Unfortunately, not all items are visible with an x-ray, for example, a piece of a rawhide bone.

There are occasions when the vet needs to feed the dog barium to make certain items visible on x-rays.

This is the procedure during which a vet will decide whether the item is likely going to pass on its own or the surgery is necessary.

Treatment for Small Objects Ingested Less Than Two Hours Ago

Now, if the case is that the dog ingested the foreign object less than two hours ago and that it is safe to bring it back up, veterinarians may suggest inducing vomiting with 3% hydrogen peroxide.

However, it is important to consult with your vet prior to decide to induce vomiting, as this should not be done if the object was toxic or sharp.

Also, your vet is the one how can tell you how much hydrogen peroxide you should use.

If this does not help, the vet will have to administer more effective medications to induce vomiting.

Our advice is not to try to induce vomiting without consulting with your vet, due to the fact that there are items that will be dangerous if brought back up and this can cause further more serious problems.

Other Cases of Removing a Dog’s Bowel Obstruction

The object can be retrieved with an endoscope – a tool that has utensils made for grasping the object.

This can be helpful only if the object is still in the stomach.

But, if the object has gone to the pylorus and the small intestine, surgery will be needed.


Well, nobody can be sure about the prognosis, as it may vary depending on the severity of the obstruction.

Also, complicating factors such as necrosis or peritonitis may arise causing more serious issues.

Most pets recover fine, but if they had surgery, they have to be monitored for any signs of leakage from the intestinal tract.

If the owner notices fever and abdominal pain, he/she must report it to the vet immediately.

Getting back to solid foods has to be gradual as a dog that is recovering should eat a liquid diet for the first few days.

How to Prevent Intestinal Blockages

  • Keep an eye on your pet, especially if they prefer eating things. Only a second is enough for it to wolf down a toy while you are not watching.
  • Never give cooked bones, rawhide, or unsafe toys to dogs that are known to be “vacuum-cleaners”.
  • Keep your dog out of the trash, being that steak bones, rib bones, and turkey carcasses can cause quite a problem when swallowed.
  • Give them toys that are larger than the dog’s throat to play with
  • Teach your dog the drop-it-and-leave-it command.

How Dangerous Is the Item My Dog Swallowed? Here Is a List of the Worst Offenders

When this issue is in question, we have to say that anything ingested can be dangerous.

Blocking the dog’s gastrointestinal tract is not the only thing that can happen, but this can do further damage as the item passes through.

The following items are known for causing further complications when swallowed:

  • Pennies—They can cause intestinal obstruction in dogs, plus they can cause zinc toxicity if they were minted after 1982.
  • Strings—Even though many people think that this is an innocent object, strings in the intestinal tract may cause the intestine to bunch up like an accordion. The tighter the string gets, it can cut through the intestines.
  • Alkaline Batteries—If a dog punctures the battery with its teeth, it can cause the release of acids, that may further corrode the dog’s throat and stomach. Those dogs that ingested alkaline batteries should not be induced to vomit, being that it is corrosive and can cause more harm on the way up. What you must do in this situation is to call a vet promptly or call poison control.
  • Cat Litter—This litter can cause problems, especially if a large amount is eaten.
  • Sharp Objects—In certain situations, a sharp object will pass without any problem because the intestinal tract detects its sharpness. If your dog has eaten something sharp, you can feed him 1/2 to 1 slice of high-fiber bread that will wrap around the item, with the aim to protect the stomach and intestinal lining. Also, you can feed him 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain canned pumpkin or 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice.
  • Tampons—Tampons are created to swell with moisture and if this happens to get inside your dog, it can create problems. You should feed your dog one of the foods recommended for ingesting sharp objects that we have mentioned above.

How Much Will Surgery Cost

There will be instances when nothing but surgery can help your dog, and you will need to be prepared to pay quite an amount of money for it.

The price of surgery depends on numerous factors and will vary by region and the kind of operation that will be performed.

According to Dr. Phil Zeltzman, how expensive the surgery will be, depends on what part of the dog’s body is being operated on.

The following numbers show prices for the different kinds of surgery:

  • Mouth: $370
  • Esophagus: $920
  • Stomach: $1,140
  • Small intestine: $1, 640
  • Colon (or large intestine): $640

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